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U.S. Department of HealtH anD HUman ServiceS • national institutes of Health
National Institute of Mental Health
When Worry Gets Out of Control:
Generalized Anxiety
National Institute of Mental Health
Anxle1y Dlsorders
People with anxiety disorders feel extremely fearful and unsure.
Most people feel anxious about something for a short time now and
again, but people with anxiety disorders feel this way most of the time.
Their fears and worries make it hard for them to do everyday tasks.
About 18% of American adults have anxiety disorders. Children also
may have them.
Treatment is available for people with anxiety disorders. Researchers
are also looking for new treatments that will help relieve symptoms.
This booklet is about one kind of anxiety disorder called generalized
anxiety disorder, or GAD. For information about other kinds of anxiety
disorders, please see the end of this booklet.
Oenerellzed Anxle1y Dlsorder
Oenerellzed Anxle1y Dlsorder
All of us worry about things like health, money, or family
problems at one time or another. But people with GAD
are extremely worried about these and many other things,
even when there is little or no reason to worry about them.
They may be very anxious about just getting through the
day. They think things will always go badly. At times, worrying
keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks.
People with GAD may be very
anxious about just getting
through the day. They think things
will always go badly.
ge ne r a l i z e d a nx i e t y di s or de r 3
Thls ls e lls1 ot common symp1oms.
People wl1h OAD:
• worry very much ebou1 everydey 1hlnµs for at least
six months, even if there is little or no reason to worry
about them;
• cen'1 con1rol their constant worries;
• know 1he1 1hey worry much more than they should;
• cen'1 relex;
• heve e herd 1lme concentrating;
• ere eeslly s1er1led; and
• heve 1rouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
• common body symp1oms ere:
feeling tired for no reason;
muscle tension and aches;
having a hard time swallowing;
trembling or twitching;
being irritable;
feeling lightheaded;
feeling out of breath;
having to go to the bathroom a lot; and
hot flashes.
4 na t i ona l i ns t i t ut e of me nt a l he a l t h
When does OAD s1er1?
GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the time between
childhood and middle age. Symptoms may get better or worse
at different times, and often are worse during times of stress.
People with GAD may visit a doctor many times before they
find out they have this disorder. They ask their doctors to help
them with the signs of GAD, such as headaches or trouble falling
asleep, but don’t always get the help they need right away.
It may take doctors some time to be sure that a person has
GAD instead of something else.
There is help for people with GAD.
The first step is to go to a doctor
to talk about symptoms.
ge ne r a l i z e d a nx i e t y di s or de r 6
Is 1here help?
There is help for people with GAD. The first step is to go to
a doctor or health clinic to talk about symptoms. People who
think they have GAD may want to bring this booklet to the
doctor, to help them talk about the symptoms in it. The doctor
will do an exam to make sure that another physical problem
isn’t causing the symptoms. The doctor may make a referral
to a mental health specialist.
Doctors may prescribe medication to help relieve GAD.
It’s important to know that some of these medicines may take a
few weeks to start working. In most states only a medical doctor
(a family doctor or psychiatrist) can prescribe medications.
The kinds of medicines used to treat GAD are listed below.
Some are used to treat other problems, such as depression,
but also are helpful for GAD:
• antidepressants,
• anti-anxiety medicines, and
• beta blockers.
Doctors also may ask people with GAD to go to therapy with
a licensed social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. This treat-
ment can help people with GAD feel less anxious and fearful.
There is no cure for GAD yet, but treatments can give relief
to people who have it and help them live a more normal life.
If you know someone with signs of GAD, talk to him or her
about seeing a doctor. Offer to go along for support.
To find out more about GAD, call 1-866-615-NIMH
(1-866-615-6464) to have free information mailed to you.
6 na t i ona l i ns t i t ut e of me nt a l he a l t h
Who peys tor 1ree1men1?
Most insurance plans cover treatment for anxiety disorders.
People who are going to have treatment should check with
their own insurance companies to find out about coverage.
For people who don’t have insurance, local city or county
governments may offer treatment at a clinic or health center,
where the cost is based on income. Medicaid plans also may
pay for GAD treatment.
Why do people µe1 OAD?
GAD sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure
why some people have it, while others don’t. When chemicals in
the brain are not at a certain level it can cause a person to have
GAD. That is why medications often help with the symptoms
because they help the brain chemicals stay at the correct levels.
To improve treatment, scientists are studying how well different
medicines and therapies work. In one kind of research, people
with GAD choose to take part in a clinical trial to help doctors
find out what treatments work best for most people, or what
works best for different symptoms. Usually, the treatment is free.
Scientists are learning more about how the brain works so that
they can discover new treatments.
ge ne r a l i z e d a nx i e t y di s or de r ?
Personel s1ory
“I wes worrled ell 1he
1lme ebou1 every1hlnµ.
I1 dldn’1 me11er 1he1
1here were no slµns ot
problems, I jus1 µo1 upse1.
I wes hevlnµ 1rouble
telllnµ esleep e1 nlµh1,
end I couldn’1 keep my
mlnd tocused e1 work.
I tel1 enµry e1 my temlly
ell 1he 1lme.”
“I sew my doc1or end
explelned my cons1en1
worrles. my doc1or sen1
me 1o someone who
knows ebou1 OAD. Mow
I em 1eklnµ medlclne
end worklnµ wl1h e
counselor 1o cope be11er
wl1h my worrles. I hed
1o work herd, bu1 I
teel be11er. I’m µled
I mede 1he1 tlrs1 cell
1o my doc1or.”
8 na t i ona l i ns t i t ut e of me nt a l he a l t h
For more Intorme1lon on
OAD end O1her Anxle1y Dlsorders
Visit the National Library of Medicine’s
MedlinePlus www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus
En Español, http://medlineplus.gov/spanish
For Intorme1lon on Ollnlcel Trlels tor
OAD end O1her Anxle1y Dlsorders
NIMH Clinical Trials Web page
National Library of Medicine Clinical Trials Database

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u.s. Department of HealtH anD Human services
national institutes of Health
niH publication no. 07-4677
revised 2007